Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal is not yet off the hook. The prosecution intends to appeal a magistrate’s ruling that dismissed an application to detain him for reshuffling County Executive Committee before conclusion of a pending graft case.
Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Alexander Muteti said the State was not satisfied with Senior Principal Magistrate Thomas Nzioki’s ruling at the Milimani Law Courts on Thursday.
“We respect the ruling but reserves to test it at the High Court. We want the question on access to office fully addressed. We are appealing and we request to have a copy of the ruling and the proceedings availed on priority basis,” said Mr Muteti.
The magistrate disagreed with the prosecution that Governor Lenolkulal had no powers to re-assign his county ministers and chief officers before a corruption case facing him is concluded.
Mr Lenolkulal had in April and November 2019 conducted reshuffles in the county government, a move that angered the Mr Noordin Haji-led Office of Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP).
As a result, the ODPP filed an application seeking to have the governor’s bond terms cancelled and have him detained for failing to obey the court order that barred him from accessing office.
State Counsel Wesley Nyamache, in an affidavit, argued that the governor was in contempt of court and thus should be punished for reshuffling his Cabinet.
Mr Nyamache was also of the view that the governor had interfered with witnesses in the case and the decision to re-assign officers in the county government would interfere with crime scene.
“The governor’s move was a power gesture that he is still in charge of the county affairs notwithstanding the pending case,” the prosecution submitted.
Together with 11 others, the governor is facing charges of abuse of office by using his position to improperly confer a benefit of Sh84.6 million to himself. But Magistrate Nzioki, after an evaluation of the affidavit by Mr Nyamache, found that there was evidence on interference with witnesses.
“The applicant (DPP) did not demonstrate why the bond terms should be cancelled,” said Mr Nzioki in his ruling.
The court also noted that looking at the bail terms, the governor was not removed from office but was rather given limited access to office and to the Integrated Financial Management Information System and county government’s bank accounts.
SH30 MILLION BOND
The bond terms issued by Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti on April 2, 2019 also required the governor not to contact or interact with any witness directly or indirectly. Mr Lenolkulal is out on a Sh30 million bond.
Governor Lenolkulal neither denied nor disputed re-assigning and reshuffling the county officials after his arraignment.
He said he did so on advice of his lawyer Mr Paul Nyamodi. He added that there was no order barring him from exercising the executive powers of a governor. While terming the prosecution’s application as misconceived, lawyer Nyamodi told the court that Mr Lenolkulal had only exercised his legitimate powers as a governor.
“The reshuffle and the re-assignment was not in violation of the bond terms issued to the governor when he was released. The applicant had made similar application and was dismissed on May 15, 2019,” said the lawyer.
The hearing of the graft case will start on February 11, 2020. The prosecution has lined up 235 witnesses including forensic experts to testify.
Earlier, the prosecution had said it required 130 hours to present evidence against the governor.